Articles about the UBF (University Bible Fellowship) in the “Bonner General-Anzeiger” newspaper in den 1980s:

Translation of a “Bonner General-Anzeiger” article of 08/28/1985:
Cults: Not For Everyone Recognizable
Work Group: “You learn only later what it is about”

“Are you new here? What do you study? Did you already find an apartment?” In this shortened form, the Protestant Work Group Against Destructive Cults characterizes the initial conversations of “evangelizing” groups. The work group noticed last year, that one Korean fellowship, in particular, has intensively cared about the university as their “harvest field”. They call themselves “UBF – University Bible Fellowship.” … “You always learn only later what it is actually about,” as the members of the Protestant study group describe their experiences with cults. In their invitations, for example, the Korean group introduces itself as a “student church” with the goal of “campus evangelization,” wanting to help the students to study the Bible and to live according to its teaching. For this purpose they offer “one-to-one Bible studies,” which means: a “missionary” teaches a disciple. That the group listens to the “self made missionary” Abraham Lee, as Keden suspects, is not mentioned in the beginning. [Remark: All Koreans in UBF call themselves “missionaries.” Abraham Lee, the leader of Germany UBF, calls himself “pastor,” additionally]. The Protestant Youth [an association of youth ministries of the Protestant churches in Germany] regards the Korean group as dubious because it uses interpersonal relationships, only for the purpose of mission, according to the experiences of some students. “Who loses his interest in Bible study is quickly abandoned.” Family, university studies and one’s circle of friends have to take second place behind the mission. The engagement demanded by the group leads to the disruption of former contacts. …

Translation of a “Bonner General-Anzeiger” article of 12/16/1986:
Information About Student Cults
Loss of Mental Autonomy

The two student cult organizations, University Bible Fellowship (UBF) and a subgroup of the Moon cult [also known as “Unification Church,” both from Korea], are currently increasingly advertising on the campus of the University of Bonn, in the cafeterias and dormitories. They promise to break through the trend of isolation and loneliness among students and offer the overcoming of problems by imbedding them into their communities. The Work Group Against Destructive Cults in Bonn has organized together with the Protestant Student Church, the Catholic Student Church and the Student Services Department of the Student Union an information evening about this problem, on this Tuesday at 8pm in auditorium 8 of the university. The findings of the work group show that joining these groups means the loss of the spiritual self-determination and emotional dependence. Often joining the cults goes along with aborting university study as well. [Remark of a former UBF member: This isn’t in the interest of the group, however, since it tries to evangelize on the campus. But members can get extremely pressured when trying to bring their “duties” in UBF, which have always top priority there, with the timely demands of their university study, permanently suffering under feelings of guilt having neglected one of these two areas. These feelings of guilt often result in mental crises and are exploited by the leaders to manipulate the members for their purposes.]

Translation of a “Bonner General-Anzeiger” article of 12/18/1986:
Loss of emotional and spiritual self-determination
threatens the newly recruited members of youth cults

The Work Group Against Destructive Cults of the Bonn Protestant Church informed in the university about youth cults and their effects on the psyche and the social behavior of young people. Especially in Bonn, the student fellowship of the Moon cult and the “University Bible Fellowship” are particularly active. All cults have in common, according to Joachim Keden, cult expert of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland, that the member would lose their emotional and spiritual self-determination in the course of time. After years of massively recruiting and harsh methods in “turning around” the members, cults today would approach their future “missionaries” more often using the “soft way”: On the campus, a person affected reported, that it would be particularly easy for the recruiters to find their contacts, since lonesomeness and social isolation is particularly widespread among the students today. …

Translation of a “Bonner General-Anzeiger” article of 03/12/1987:
Youth Trends Offer Chances For Cults
Expert for cults informed regional school committee

Longing for security, for affection, for conversations about faith, prayer life, and living faith – this is the underlying motivation for young people who get lost in the jungle of cults, according to pastor Joachim Keden, the cult expert of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland. On invitation of the Bonn regional school committee, he yesterday, in the house of the Protestant Church, gave insights into the behaviors of teenagers who would too easily be exploited by cults. In the “youth scene” Keden noticed some striking trends. In a conversation with the “General-Anzeiger” newspaper he summarized: “Teenagers are looking for small, intimate groups to which they can retreat, in which they don’t need to fear conflicts, but can escape from reality.” He thinks that “small “cultic pseudo Christian groups” like the “University Bible Fellowship,” which is addressing high school and university students on the campus, or the “Alois Grass Ministry,” targeting Bonn from castle Steineck, are responding to searching young people. Another trend: “They are looking for strong leadership figures”. … Keden suggests that parents, teachers and pastors get informed in detail about all of these courses and trends, by which some young people are imperiled unknowingly, to not simply laugh them off but to deal with them.

Translation of another in-depth “Bonner General-Anzeiger” article, which was also published in the 1980s:
Often It Starts With An Invitation To Tea
University Bible Fellowship recruits students in particularly critical situations – Student Union warns

Lonely, insecure freshmen, exam candidates plagued by examination phobia, students in difficult situations in life: They seem to be particularly receptive to the request of the University Bible Fellowship (UBF). Especially in front of the refectories and cafeterias of the university and in front of the Juridicum [one of the buildings of the university in Bonn] the members of the UBF – an organization “in the gray area between cult and church” –, tries to gain “sheep.”

The above definition of the group comes from pastor Joachim Keden, cult expert of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland. Lately, UBF is recruiting intensively at the university again. “Young people in critical situations or disposed to depression are particularly vulnerable,” Keden warns of the “dubious mission” of the UBF, which is targeting the goal of campus evangelization according to their own statement.

It is promising security, understanding, warmth and safety to the people, but in reality the UBF tries to channel its members in an extremely fundamentalist Christian direction and to subject them to rigid morals, as Keden says. The group devalues those people who aren’t part of it. It considers the previous lifestyle of the members as burdened with guilt. “A pseudo-security, a pseudo-life and a pseudo-personality are established by tremendous group pressure and the steadily increasing renunciation from family, friends and former aims in life”, say students who had been in UBF for a short time out of curiosity.

The “menace for the development of the psyche and the personality” which the cult expert is seeing, had been noticed by a Bonn student in the case of a fellow student who had been her friend. Since he attended the UBF programs, he had limited contact to his friends and parents more and more. “He is permanently trying to evangelize me. The thing which frightened me was the fact that he had changed completely,” the young woman says. However, she says she cannot accomplish getting her friend out of the group without the help of others.

Numerous former members and their relatives report of encapsulation and changed personality. “You have to be like a dumb sheep and follow blindly,” an earlier member describes the atmosphere and mode of operation of the UBF. Bonn students are confirming this: “During the Bible studies we felt like being in a nursery school.” The interpretation of the selected Bible passages was predetermined. Discussion or criticism wasn’t allowed: “There was a fixed use of language, everything made the impression of being kind of mechanical and very inflexible.” All statements concerning the biblical texts were predefined, fixed in writing, nothing being left to chance, the students noticed. “They pitch on single things from the Bible, without observing the context.”

Joachim Keden considers it a “simplified radical Biblicism,” which transfers the texts of the Bible in a “blind automatism” in today’s time. The UBF followers assumed that every word of the Bible had been literally dictated by God to the people who wrote it down, so that it got an absolute authority independent of the time and situation applied. [Remark of a former member: This has to be re-qualified a little bit. In UBF, absolute authority is actually granted to the leaders, the Bible having only a subordinate role. Even Christians who have a narrower understanding of the divine inspiration of the Bible wouldn’t agree with the teachings and most of all the practices of UBF, since they cannot be justified with the Bible, independent of whether or not and how far you regard the Bible as being the Word of God.]

What had started with a seemingly casual invitation to a cup of tea, to a Bible study or to a worship service in the bungalow in the Meckenheimer Allee [the UBF center in Bonn], often leads to the so called “one-to-one Bible study.” The newly recruited persons becomes a “sheep,” which is very intensively instructed by a “shepherd” according to rigid schemes using some text passages of the Bible. Keden explains the “shepherd” is given the position of a personal leader who conveys the only true knowledge of God by this “shepherding.”

Another UBF feature are the “sogams” [also called “testimonies”]. In this kind of personal sermon of repentance the “sheep” have to confess their guilt [for example of having not evangelized enough] for example in worship services [or in weekly “testimony sharing hours” or in front of their “shepherd”]. Keden knows from his long-standing occupation with the UBF that these testimonies are often produced under heavy emotional pressure. Furthermore the shepherding together with sogam writing holds the great danger of becoming dependent on the personal “shepherd.”

The increasing recruiting by UBF has been experienced by the residents of Bonn dormitories some time ago. The recruiters there adamantly tried to get in conversation with students, in particular cases not even hesitating to put their foot in the door. In response, the Bonn Student Union ordered a UBF member to stay away from the dormitories. Furthermore the Student Union informed and warned of the group using placards.

The UBF has its roots in South Korea and is strongly molded by Koreans. They are operating world wide, the headquarters being in Chicago, the European headquarters in Cologne. In Germany there are approximately ten chapters. More information can be obtained from the Bonn work group “cults, occultism, new age” in the Protestant Youth Office, Adenauerallee 37, Tel: 26798-56/54. The work group is meeting on Monday from 6pm to 9pm. The Protestant Church can also provide further help: Peoples’ mission department, Düsseldorf, Tel: 0211/3610-246.

(with kind permission of the “Bonner General-Anzeiger”)